Hopes for good fishing in Palestine

The joy of the Palestinian fisherman, Medhat al-Shantaf, in awaiting the abundant fishing season has not lasted after the Israeli authorities reduced fishing zone off the Gaza coast to 10 nautical miles instead of 15.

The 26-year-old fisher and a father of two, is impatiently waiting for the fishing season next March, in order to earn more money.

“In the fishing season, we can earn a lot of money, but now I am afraid to lose the coming fishing season if Israel continues its reduction,” al-Shantaf told Xinhua, while he was knitting his nets.

He said “all fishermen here are considered as the poorest people,” adding that “they and I are waiting this season to earn some money to live at a stable level.”

Nevertheless, al-Shantaf and his three brothers are managing their small boat to be ready for deep fishing if Israel re-expands the fishing area, as he said.

On Wednesday, the Israeli army decided to reduce the allowed fishing zone off the Gaza Strip coast from 15 to 10 nautical miles, according to Israeli and Palestinian sources.

The office of the Israeli coordinator of the government’s activities in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip said in a statement that the permitted area will be reduced to 10 nautical miles or some 18.5 km.

According to the office, the decision was taken “after security consultations” following “continued rocket firing and explosive balloons from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory.”

However, Mohammed Abu Ryala, a fisherman in his 50s, told Xinhua that they are not armed persons and Israeli knows this very well.

“So, Israel should avoid any sanctions against the fishermen during the military tensions between it and the Palestinian armed factions,” as he said.

The reduction of the fishing area forced the fishermen to catch various kinds of small fishes without earning enough to live at a stable level.

Abu Ryala complained that about 350 fishermen are threatened to be pangs of hunger with their families soon. They are anxiously waiting for the announcement of the Israeli authorities to increase the area of fishing, as he said.

On the other hand, Zakaria Baker, coordinator of fishermen’s committees in the Gaza Strip, said Israel intends to reduce the fishing area for political purposes, adding that “this is not coming as a response to terrorist acts as Israel claims.”

He noted that Israel chooses specific times to prevent the fishing. “Israel blackmails the Palestinian fishermen to achieve its political goals,” he said.

He said that the fishermen are civilians and have nothing to do with the political tensions that are taking place between Israel and the Palestinian factions.

Hundreds of fishers are threatened to lose their only source of livelihood, especially in light of the high unemployment rate in the Gaza Strip, according to Baker.

Earlier this week, Israel also decided to cancel the recent relaxations of the blockade it has been imposing on the coastal enclave for 13 years.